Beijing expresses anger at US Navy mission through South China Sea

Beijing insists on ‘indisputable sovereignty’ over South China Sea islands after Washington sends two US warships to disputed waters

  • China expressed anger at a US Navy mission in the disputed South China Sea 
  • The foreign ministry demanded the US ‘immediately stop its provocative actions’
  • Washington says warships were conducteding ‘freedom of navigation’ exercises

Beijing has voiced its ‘strong dissatisfaction’ with the United States on Monday after two US warships sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea.  

Guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Preble entered the waters without permission from China, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing in Beijing. 

She demanded the US ‘immediately stop its provocative actions’ after the two destroyers conducted what Washington called ‘freedom of navigation’ exercises in the area. 

The guided-missile destroyer USS Preble departs Naval Base San Diego for a scheduled underway in February 6, 2013. Beijing has voiced its ‘strong dissatisfaction’ with the US on Monday after two US warships sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea


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Beijing and Washington are locked in a trade war and the two sides are trying to hammer out a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline when US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 per cent from 10 per cent.  

Escalating tensions between the United States and China have cost both countries billions of dollars and roiled global financial markets.  

‘Spruance and Preble sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Spratly Islands in order to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,’ said Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet cited by CNN.

‘The relevant actions of the US warships violated Chinese sovereignty, and undermined peace, security, and order in the relevant sea areas,’ Hua said. ‘The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition.’ 

Guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (pictured) and USS Preble entered the waters without permission from China, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said

Aerial view on the The Spratly Islands, one of the major archipelagos in the South China Sea. China has been rapidly expanding its naval capabilities to increase its influence abroad, especially in the disputed waters of the South China Sea

‘China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, Mischief Reef, and the adjacent waters,’ Hua said. 

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate. 

In January, the destroyer USS McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands. 

China claims almost all of the strategic South China Sea and frequently lambastes the United States and its allies over naval operations near Chinese-occupied islands.

China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

China claims nearly all the oil and resource-rich waters of the South China Sea and has ignored counter-claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia

China defends its construction as necessary for self-defense and says it is the United States that is responsible for ratcheting up tensions in the region by sending warships and military planes close to islands Beijing claims.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan have competing claims in the region.

Fears have grown in recent months that the US-China trade dispute is just one element in a bilateral relationship that is fast cooling across the board, with top US administration officials sharply criticising Beijing for everything from human rights abuses to cyber espionage in the United States.

The two countries are also at odds over regional security, including Washington’s overtures to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own. 

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